Parts shortage continues to impact local airlines

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star
Parts shortage continues to impact local airlines
An airplane is captured preparing for landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on March 7, 2024.
STAR / Russell Palma

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific grounded almost 20 aircraft in the first five months of the year, feeling the pain of an extended engine and supply chain problem that started in 2023.

To date, PAL has grounded at least five aircraft, while Cebu Pacific has parked about a dozen, as they comply with the recall of jet engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney.

PAL president and chief operating officer Stanley Ng told reporters that the airline has shut five Airbus A320neos pending the repair of engines with Pratt & Whitney.

Ng said the grounding of the aircraft is expected to result in lost opportunity, as PAL had wanted to revive Manila connections to Sapporo within the year. Given the uncertainties surrounding the supply chain, the airline is doubtful if it can get enough jets to mount new flights.

Similarly, Cebu Pacific chief strategy officer Alex Reyes said the airline has switched off around a dozen of A320neos to return them to shop for repair. Worse, the carrier expects the supply issue to spill over to 2025, posing another risk for airlines around the globe.

“It is still an issue for us, and like what we said even last year, this problem is going to be with us for some time. It is not going to end in 2024. It will continue into 2025,” Reyes said.

The positive note for Cebu Pacific is that the fleet injury is far from its expected disruption, as it was anticipating as many as 15 jets grounded all at once.

“We are slightly better than what we expected at this time of the year in terms of the aircraft and engines available to us,” Reyes said.

Both PAL and Cebu Pacific are working out the Pratt & Whitney problem in their own ways. For PAL, the response was to sign a wet lease with European carrier Wamos Air for the rental of two A330-200s to be deployed for Manila-Australia flights.

Prior to this, Cebu Pacific had entered into a damp lease with Bulgaria Air to bolster its fleet for the demand spike during the summer season. The jets were assigned by Cebu Pacific to serve the Manila connections to Cebu and Davao.

PAL is set to receive nine A350-1000s between 2025 and 2027, as well as 13 A321neos between 2026 and 2029, with both orders intended to prepare the flag carrier for future demand.

Likewise, Cebu Pacific is out to place a firm order for as many as 150 jets from either Airbus or Boeing in a transaction that could hit $18 billion based on list prices.

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